Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I need an iPod, I thought as I pressed my hands against the tapestry chair and righted myself. I walked toward the door as I considered the songs I might feed the palm sized device. Surely it would take the drudgery out of my exercise. All I needed to do was make a run to Costco and pick up the latest version.  
 I  walked down my front steps, headed toward the beach and checked my starting time. My mind began to spin with the details. Once the I Pod was in hand, I needed to select the songs and download them. Yet sorting through six decades of my favorite songs might take considerable time. I could begin with the disheveled pile of CD’s stored in my closet. But WAIT! How does one download songs? How much time would it take to learn that? UGH! It can’t be too hard. I’m sure I can figure it out. And so my obsession kept spinning.

While engrossed in this self imposed mind static, I realized I passed a quarter mile of houses and gardens without even noticing. I turned around and glanced at the tree lined street. Then my attention shifted to the soft cushion of the sole of my shoe bearing down upon an inflexible concrete. I took a deep breath and continued my walk

Once I arrived at Ocean Avenue a decision presented itself.  I could stay on the street side and attend to the turn of the century homes and landscaping. Or I could cross now and take the sidewalk along the bluff’s edge and enjoy the view of the ocean. Maybe I should wait for the light to turn and head for the closest stairway. Then I could walk across the sand and actually stroll along the water’s edge. The last option seemed the most appealing.

Down the long stretch of steps that lay before me, my enthusiasm waned a bit. Everything has its price, I speculated “One must return from where one came.” Yet I pressed on. Once at the bottom, the sand gently receded with each step as I approached the water.

The slow rhythm of the oceans pull upon the shore was my reward. The contrast of enormous man made vessels waiting to be docked and unloaded buoyed by an expanse of water seemed remarkable. I looked toward the pier encircled by seagulls. Then I continued my walk dodging the debris washed upon the shore. At the same time, I searched for small treasures. Drift wood, bits of plastic, broken glass, tangled seaweed…

I glanced up. A man with a scrambled head of hair and disheveled clothes was approaching. He’s probably homeless, I imagined. My mood shifted. A certain sense of powerlessness overcomes me when I encounter the apparent suffering of those on the fringe. He was getting closer. I cringed. As he started to get closer, I heard a voice. Panic set in. Then he pointed his  finger at me animatedly saying. “Did you notice what a marvelous day it is? We’re lucky. They’re all marvelous” I broke out in a grin. “You’re right”, I replied. And he was gone at a pace much lighter and quicker than mine.

With his disappearance, my search for hidden treasures evaporated as I left the oceanside and headed home. Two joggers approached me on the right passing me by. Both were plugged in to their…yep….i Pods. I wondered if they had encountered the same man. And if they had, could they have heard him? I think not.
And what other pleasures would I have missed if I had been plugged in…the sound of the waves pulling against the shore, seagulls crying overhead and the voice of one seemingly lost soul pointing out the miracle of a  day…

Although I had the funds to purchase an i Pod upon my return, was it worth the price?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Opportunity often hides in strange packages.
Recently diagnosed with prediabetes, I spent the last several months processing the information. At first I blew it off thinking the test results were a fluke. I spent Thanksgiving freely eating sweets at whim.
Alcohol was a close buddy as I consumed several glasses as soon as the sun went down. And bread, my favorite, was a main stable. Yet I was forced to take a sobering view after receiving further results that my glucose level had raised even higher. So additional appointments with the doctor, nutritionist and many episodes of surfing the net, brought me closer to an understanding, it  ain’t a good diagnosis. But it might be reversible. Whew!
As one might expect, I became instantly motivated when reading it can lead to diabetes 2. That carries with it the potential for kidney disease, heart failure, high blood pressure and/or neuropathy. With the hair raised on the back of my neck, I fast forwarded to information outlining the ways to reverse it. . As my daughter, Christine, commented, “There’s nothing more motivating than fear.” Such wisdom.
So how do I dump this near nightmare?

It’s clear. I need to increase my exercise and drop 5%to 10% of my body weight. Exercise is key, since it allows free floating insulin to be absorbed by my muscles.
It also provides the added advantage of speeding up my efforts of discarding of the extra 40 pounds I added after high school. Belly fat accompanies and contributes to prediabetes. And, sure enough, my waistline is way past go. UGH! That requires ab abuse. So where am I going with this ramble? Hang in there.
With my head popping with new information, I rolled my bike out of the house and on to the porch. Clunking it down the steps and out to the street, I hopped on and headed toward the beach.
While keeping my balance, I noted my knees were behaving so I began to peddle
faster. Hmmm. Not bad. I kept a close watch on the oncoming traffic and the potential for car doors opening smack into me.
Arriving at Ocean Boulevard, I glided down the hill and out to the bike path.

Knees were still fine so I increased my effort. I pedaled, pumped. Then glided while glancing toward a calm deep blue sea. A serene sense of gratitude washed over me. Inhaling I quickened my pace as my heart pumped faster and stronger. I approached a turn in the path and headed toward platform directly across from the Queen Mary. Stopping for a drink, I parked my bike and stretched out on the grass and took my pulse. Yep! It was working.

After I sat up to watch the sunlight glisten and almost skid across the water.I took note. My connection with exertion and nature was long past due. I had almost forgotten what a unique cocktail they provide. I drank slowly. Then a couple approached me and asked that I take a picture. I snapped them as they posed capturing one small moment a reward for our brief encounter. I took note again. Time slowed.
I got back on my bike and headed home. The sun warmed my body. As I reached, Second Street, I tilted the bike swerving it from one side of the road to the other. A memory over powered me. I could almost hear the click, clickety, click of discarded playing cards clothes pinned to the spokes. An Ace of Spades? A Heart? Certainly not a Club. This felt too good.
Contentment settled in as I rounded the corner and approached my home. Maybe this predicament shook me out of my complacency and sent me straight into the path of opportunity. Not a bad rap.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Over the years each time I saw a water color, I would step close and try to analyze the painter’s techniques. At the same time, I wondered whether or not I could paint. Eventually I would walk away and tell myself that the artist is talented and I’m not. Yet, my desire to paint remained. Then ten years ago, I took a class through the city recreation department. Instantly, I noticed that the other members of the class were better than I. Consequently I spent more time in the act of comparing than painting. Frustrated, I walked away convinced I was the unlucky one. I simply was not artisitic.

After I retired, I signed up for a watercolor class through the senior university like a pigeon coming home to roost,. I immediately engaged in the same act of sizing up the other students. During each class, I would begin my project. Then I would trek around the room admiring everyone else’s work. And so my obsession continued.

One day while I was especially discouraged, the sound of a familiar voice resounded through out the room.” If anyone in the room here thinks they’re talented, get up and get out. Painting is work and experience. It has nothing to do with talent. ”

I glanced to the side. Everyone just kept on painting. Then a smile spread across my face. That voice yanked my false assumptions right out of me. Those were the very words I needed to hear. Although the delivery jarred me, it alerted me to the fact that I wasted so much precious time honoring other’s accomplishments rather than spending time developing my skills. How liberating to encounter a situation at this point in my life that resulted in altering my preconceived ideas. And so, my painting continues.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Brush Stroke or Watercolor Class Cont...

You may be wondering… Why on earth would I return to a class with such a chaotic beginning?

A strong desire to learn to paint and a heavy dose of genes swimming in optimism convinced me to give it another try. During the down time of the last class, I also spent time walking among the students observing their paintings which were very impressive. So I thought maybe this guy has some artistic wisdom that outweighs his lack of teaching skills.

I arrived about ten minutes late. I was banking on the pace of the last class. My tardiness actually placed me ahead of schedule. I sat down next to the woman I befriended the previous week.

During our first encounter we had a lengthy conversation and discovered many similarities. We recently retired, taught first grade, and loved teaching literacy. So once I settled in with my painting board, paper, and paints, I was surprised when she turned to me and asked if I was retired. I paused. Is she kidding, I thought? Quickly I searched her face. It was obvious that she wasn’t. Then I smiled and repeated my response from the week before.
She commented, “Oh, you were a teacher too?
Then she proceeded to ask the same litany of questions as before and was equally surprised by each of my answers.
Hmmm I thought the “senior” in Senior University is becoming a reocurring staple.

Just as I began to resolve the fact that a lapse of memory is likely to be frequent among this population, the instructor stood up.

In the same booming voice, he called the class to order. Holding up the identical book from last week, he delivered the same speech. I was stunned as a moment of self doubt sunk. I began to think that perhaps I was in error and simply experiencing a case of déjà vu. While seeping deeper into confusion, the person on my left leaned toward me and whispered, “He already said that last week.” I stifled a giggle. After my head cleared, I nodded resolving to make this guy my new cam padre.

And  despite the quirkiness of the class environment I'll conclude with my first painting which is featured below.

Yeah, I know. But it's a start!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Retired On Course

I worried. I planned. I partied.  

And now I’m retired!

Am I having a blast? Well, a blast is not the coined phrase I would use. However, it is d*** delightful. Stress has nearly disappeared. I can awake each day at will. The freedom to structure my day at whim is exhilarating. And I often find myself bemused.

I signed up for a beginning watercolor course at the senior university. On the first day, I entered a room filled with people. I looked around but couldn’t see the instructor. For a moment, I thought I was in the wrong class. So I sat down. Thirty minutes later, a man stood up and called the beginners to the front of the room.
He wrote an illegible list of materials on a white board. A person n the back of the room shouted, “I can’t read it.” Then the instructor said he had a hand out but couldn’t find it. He paused, and scratched his head. Another person said they had a copy from a previous class. So he sent someone to make copies for us and began walking around the room talking with various students. Ten minutes later, he reappeared shouting for our attention and held up a book of illustrations. He gave us a history of his friendship with the author and some TMZ like tidbit that his mother in law had been a showgirl on one of the featured riverboats. This was followed by an announcement that if he suddenly left the room, not to take it personally. No one said a word. Finally he said he was incontinent and chuckled.

I sat stunned. Egad, I thought. I’ve taken a plunge down Alice’s rabbit hole. Is this what is meant by the “senior” in Senior University? Then I heard the words ring out, “Class dismissed.”

And so my retirement adventure’s begun…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Sur

I braced myself against the twists and turns of Highway 1. Leaning over the dashboard, I hoped to soak in the expanse of blue sky as it brushed the ocean waves. My reward was an advancing fog.
S***, I thought. I bragged for weeks about the incredulous scenery. I even emailed links with pictures of Big Sur to lure friends into celebrating my retirement. So what’s with this FOG! I vacillated between my ever present realism and conflicting optimism. Maybe it will burn off soon. But what if it doesn’t? I hope no one will be disappointed. Oh it doesn’t really matter. But, NO, it will spoil the view from Nepenthe. Then I heard Carolyn’s voice in the background happily chatting about the beauty of the redwoods and wild flowers. At the same time Robin was admiring the vastness of the rocky cliffs. I let out a sigh of relief. Accompanied by the soothing lyrics, of Carol King’s song “Way Over Yonder”, we coasted into the Big Sur Inn. At last, we arrived!

way over yonder
is a place that i know
where i can find shelter
from a hunger and cold
and the sweet tastin' good life
is so easily found a way over yonder, that's where i'm bound
We drove down a short bumpy road to our cottage nestled among the tall Redwoods and road dusted ferns. I looked up at the balcony and smiled as Tara and Cindy greeted us. Surprised, I wondered how they got there so fast. They must have left at some god awful hour. I was sure we would arrive before they did. It seemed strange to see them outside the utilitarian walls of Alvarado.

i know when i get there
the first thing i'll see
is the sun shining golden
shining right down on me
then trouble's gonna lose me
worry leave me behind…

After unloading, I walked up the narrow wooden stairs to join them. The disappointment of the fog was still ever present. When I got to the top of the stairs, I found them engaged in conversation while sipping on wine. Tara looked up with that familiar warm smile and commented in her southern drawl, “I love this place.” Downstairs Carolyn searched for a bottle opener to uncork some wine. Robin began to nestle in and organize the small cottage, while Maureen collapsed into an overstuffed chair and began to unwind. Soon we could hear Leslie’s jeep approaching. After spending a good part of the day pedaling along the northern coast she was bubbling with energy.
We began exploring the nooks and crannies of each room and claimed our beds. Like the buzz of a pesky mosquito, I still couldn’t swat my obsession with the fog out of my mind. Then I looked out of the window and saw the final five guests; Melina, Sovy, Lily, and Celeste. Their dear spirits and
laughter were approaching the cottage threshold to join us. And who was the fifth guest? Why that would be the soon to be born Samantha who was receiving an early indoctrination into celebrating life’s changes in style.

and i'll stand up proudly
in true peace of mind
talkin' about
talkin' about
a way over yonder
is a place i have seen
in a garden of wisdom
from some long ago dream
oh yeah

After greeting everyone, I walked along a footpath to a nearby water fall.
I stood quietly observing. The only audible sound was the water trickling into the ravine. Staring at the flowing water, my preoccupation with the fog gradually disappeared. I realized that much of my life has been wasted holding on to the past rather than focusing on the present. The cool air surrounded me along with the warmth of knowing so many dear friends took time to join me.Then I turned and followed the light emanating from the cabin windows vowing to welcome this opportunity to celebrate and let the weekend unfold in its own unique way. I wasn’t disappointed!

maybe tomorrow
i'll  find my way
to the land where the honey runs
in rivers each day
and the sweet tastin' good life
is so easily found
a way over yonder
that's where i'm bound
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
a way over yonder
that's where i'm bound.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Preparing to Party

Ditch day was packed with indulgences and definitely a success. But it was over. So the next morning I caught myself drifting into reliving the details. But, let’s face it, life doesn’t always allow us to remain at the pinnacle of our highs. My retirement potluck would begin at 5:00 p.m. which in translation meant I better get my **** together. I had to get moving. Preparing for a house filled with family and friends, ultimately would reap pleasure, but required WORK. Oy vay!

I fired up my cappuccino machine and decided to skip breakfast. The evening would be a caloric packed excursion through trays of appetizers. No need to start eating early. Then in my pre party manner, I began to spin while a litany of chores nagged me. I couldn’t decide if I should polish my nails or cut up the ingredients to my shrimp and mango appetizer. Should I rake the leaves in the backyard or iron my wrinkle free blouse? Maybe it would be better to trim the flower beds and sweep the leaves. Then clear out the refrigerator. YIKES! I needed to put an end to this. In order to avoid slipping into a walking comma and skipping the essentials or engaging in repeating the same tasks over and over again, I better get organized. So I sat down mid morning and forced myself to make a list.

Like the neurotic Toad in the children’s book, “Frog and Toad Forever”, I focused, gathered pencil and paper in hand and created a list including the following:

• Rake yard, sweep leaves, trim flower beds

• Iron 4 huge table cloths

• Clear out refrigerator debris

• Place Prosecco bottles in refrigerator

• Set out serving platters, napkins, plates, and eating utensils

• Make appetizers

• Iron outfit

• Put CD’s in player

• Relax

Yes, relax was my last item. There isn’t anything worse than a wound up hostess who is a buzz kill. If I didn’t include it, I might get confused like Toad and think I would have to skip it if it wasn’t on the list. Then, after getting dressed, I applied my face “I keep in the jar by the door”. (love those Beatles lyrics) Then I assumed a yoga posture and practiced some Asana breaths.

A shuffle of footsteps on the porch could be heard above my breathing. Then my sister, Carolyn, Judy and Robert entered, it warmed my heart to be greeted by those so dear to my heart. Offering to help, I directed them to the backyard and asked them to set up the tables. Did I mention I have tendonitis of the elbow? Not a convenient ailment to have when you have chores ahead of you. Dutifully they hauled the tables to opposite sides of the yard and under the tree. Snapping them in place, they spread the table cloths and placed a bouquet of spring flowers in the center of each.

I stopped and scanned the garden. Years of labor greeted me which now appeared whimsical and peacefully inviting. The arbors were laden with a peach blossom variety of bougainvillea. Sprinkles of yellow calliopsis surrounded the Saint Francis of Assisi statue, a commemorative to my mother. Wild irises guarded the herb garden while begonias stood at the base of the peach tree. The bathtub, a relic of the original bathroom, sat overflowing with a vine of tiny white and pink flowers. All were interlaced with an assortment of filler ferns, day lilies, and ground covers. Collectively they represented years of trial and error plantings generated by what caught my eye while on a walk or touring a garden. Some survived while others did not.
I entered teaching around the same time as I began tinkering in my garden. Both required long laborious hours. I spent much of my time cultivating lessons that could meet student needs. At the same time, I began to lay brick pathways in the garden to support comfortable walks from the house to the garden and out to the garage. I felt invigorated when planting, weeding, watering, and trimming each plant yet exhausted. I felt similarly when assessing student need and preparing lessons. I grew in my knowledge of how to maintain and care for my garden as well as my students. Sometimes my efforts were thoughtful and well planned. Other times I simply got the job done. I didn’t realize how the garden paralleled my own journey toward retirement. I gradually developed skills to nuture both This garden that looked back at me was now at a maintenance level and so was I.

Satisfied I went back in the house, slipped in a few nostalgic 50”s and 60’s CD’s and prepared to party on with the wonderful family and friends I collected over the years.